Tuesday, 28 February 2017

                                              Small Community, Huge Undertaking!!
In the spring of 1990, the Rush Centre Women's Institute ladies in Esther took it upon themselves to initiate the making of a Community History Book, the above photo shows the executive of the history book. There had been one done years before and it was a very small pamphlet type of book. These ladies decided this one was going to be much more in-depth information about the history of Esther and surrounding School Districts. My mother, Olive Parks was elected Editor of the project and off they went. For those of you who knew Mom, you knew this thing was going to get done and done right. Well, it turned into a colossal event for a small community. The actual stories and photos started coming in almost immediately after the announcement and it snowballed from there. By November of 1990, the final draft was shipped to Friesen Printers in Winnipeg. As per usual, there were a few minor changes but eventually, it was ready to go to print, 1200 pages and I am proud to say we did it with only one spelling error. The books were delivered to Esther the morning of the Homecoming in June of 1991, celebrating 80 years as a community. I still pick this volume up and scan through it and a lot of my blog information comes from this book. I am very proud to say I AM FROM ESTHER, ALBERTA.

Monday, 27 February 2017

                                                              Colorful Characters

 John Heaney was born in Ireland in 1830, one of 16 children. He immigrated to the USA with his brother and uncle and during his time there he was a Pony Express Rider during the Gold Rush in California and associated with the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickock and the infamous James Brothers. He then moved to North Dakota and married a widow and Stephen and Mary were born there. In 1911 the family moved to the Esther area and farmed a few miles Northwest of Esther. His son Steve and grandson Lawrence farmed and raised cattle on the homestead for many years. John passed away in 1938 at the age of 108 years.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

                                                              Tribute to a great teacher!
Betty Rumohr, was one of my first teachers and I will always remember that wonderful smile. She was a kind person and was passionate about teaching as she was about us all learning to the best of our ability. She taught in both the Esther Country School and the Esther Town School. The Esther Town School was originally Excelda School and when it closed because of small attendance and its location, it was in the middle of a pasture close to where my Dad grew up. I will always remember Betty, she was the only teacher I ever had that consistently called me Ronald, it is my name but most called me Ron.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

                                                                    " The Orchard"

Yes, there really was an Orchard in the Esther Community. A gentleman by the name of Allan Stewart traveled from Ontario with his sister and filed a homestead on the NE 1/4-14-31-2W4. He had difficult times making a go of growing grain and surviving on a 1/4 section of very light land. He joined up with a friend and they traveled the harvest circuit in Montana and states east. When he came back to Esther he decided he needed to protect his shack from the winds so he started planting a shelterbelt. Inside the shelterbelt, he started planting fruit trees, small apples, and plums and they flourished in that type of soil. Everyone in the community would go to the "Orchard" in the fall to pick and purchase fruit from Mr. Stewart. I remember him very well as his place was only a half mile east of our farm. In 1954 Mr. Stewart fell ill and went back to Ontario, he sold the property to my Dad. To this day I believe there are still apples growing there even tho no one is there to look after them. Just imagine an "Orchard" in the middle of the prairie.

Friday, 24 February 2017

                                                                  From a Shack to a Mansion

In 1911 Fred Beynon Sr. came to the Esther area to the homestead he had filed the year before while teaching school in Duboc Sk. The first thing he had built was a barn for some cattle and horses and being constructed with a straw roof, it caught fire and burned. He later had a large hip-roofed barn built and the Frenchman that built it looked out the top window after it was done and said " Bonne Vue" thus the farm name, this grand old barn has recently collapsed and the wood is being recycled by Mr. Beynons Great Grandson. In 1919 he built a small house for his new bride and himself, they honeymooned to Banff in a Model A Ford car. In 1928 they built the Grand two story house which still stands today on the original homestead.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

                                                  "Rockin the old Curling Rink"

The old Esther Curling Rink was always a hub of activity during the winter months. There was square draw curling, open bonspiels, women's bonspiels, men's bonspiels and school curling. My Dad was one of the caretakers of the rink so I was the resident rink rat. I always remember the big boiler full of coffee, the homemade stew, soups and best of all was all that homemade pie. One winter during the ladies bonspiel, My Dad (Don Parks), Robert Brockman, Bill Dalton Jr. and Elvin Person dressed up as ladies and entered the women's bonspiel. They got lots of hoots and hollers and had a whole lot of fun. Growing up in a small community, gave us all great opportunities to participate in the community events and learn to volunteer to keep the community working smoothly. My mother was always involved in the community and as I got older I participated and now my daughters and granddaughter are volunteers in their respective communities.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

As time goes by, progress in the way cattle feed is put up. In the early days, many farmers used what was called a Header/Barge. This unit was pulled with horses and in later years with a tractor. The machine cuts the grain like a swather, instead of leaving the grain in a windrow it elevated it into a large wooden box called a barge. When the barge was full it was dumped in a pile. The piles were later hauled into the yard for threshing, feeding or sometimes left in the field where the cattle fed on them during the winter. This particular unit belonged to the Schroeder family who lived about 3 miles northwest of Esther, Alberta.

Monday, 20 February 2017

                                                               Where it all started!
The big old barn and a fine herd of horses are where the Big Bend Ranch got its start. Knut and Frida Westerlund moved from Sweden to Esther via Regina and several other stops along the way in 1925. In 1940 Len (Knut & Frida's son) and Marjorie purchased 3 cows and 3 heifers from Cecil Habberfield and the following spring their boys Douglas and Lloyd each bought a heifer from Fred Beynon Sr.. The cattle were all of Wincott breeding and this was how the Big Bend Hereford Ranch became to be. The barn still stands today and is home to some of the ancestors of those first cows and heifers. The ranch is operated by great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren of Knut and Frida. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

                                                                       Calthorpe Siding
In the early years, there was a railroad siding about a mile and a half east of where my farm was, called Calthorpe. It was halfway between Esther and Loverna. For some reason, AWP decided in 1928 to build a grain elevator at this siding. The picture shows a couple old timers loading a box car with pails before the elevator was built. In 1938 it became apparent that there was no need for this elevator so it was torn down board by board and hauled to Mayerthorpe, Alberta and reconstructed.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

                                                              School on the Move.
Last week one beautiful afternoon, we decided to take a quick drive east to see if we could find some unique photo ops. We made our way over to Kingman, Alberta and this old school caught my eye. It appeared to be part of the town landscape so I took a photo of it and posted it on the Abandoned Alberta site. A gentleman, who's mother had actually taught school in Kingman in 1947 gave me the actual history of this school. It was the original Dinant School, between Kingman and Camrose, the school was closed and moved to Camrose for storage and then in 1979, it was moved once again to Kingman. As we travel around the countryside there are so many old buildings that catch our eye and it is so nice to get the actual history on them. Thank you to Larry Flemming for his input on this one.

Friday, 17 February 2017

                                                                  "The H-Train"
As we travel the roads about this beautiful province of ours, we see so many variations and combinations of truck and trailers hauling freight. We have single trailers and we have B Trains, Super B-Trains and Triple Trailers, moving our goods to the end users. Well back in the day, we had several variations also, we had horses, the main source of power and then we had the single carriages, buggies, single wagons and as shown above the ultimate freight hauler of the era, the "H-Train." This is one of the locals hauling coal and supplies from the end of the rail at Alsask north to his destination in the Esther Community, a distance of about 35 miles, all in a days work.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

                                                                 Clowning Around.
57 years ago some of the boys from the Esther School under the guidance of our teacher, Frieda Brockman, dressed up as clowns in costumes made by our mothers. We performed part of our tumbling act for the community at the Christmas Concert. Mrs. Brockman instructed us in our tumbling during the physical education class in school. Earlier in the school year, the tumbling group traveled to Red Deer and did our complete routine on CKRD television. That was a big deal for a bunch of kids from Esther.
The group above are;
Front Row: Left to right, Dennis Trevor, Clayton Foot, Manfred Schroeder and William Foot.
Back Row:  Left to right, Ron Parks, Wilfred Pratt, Cameron Stouffer, Murray Pratt and Richard Nelson.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

                                         What we would call today, "Doing it the Hard Way"
Those of us who grew up on farms and ranches can remember vividly the summer exercise program that involved square bales. Standing behind a baler stooking bales when it was 30 plus C in the blistering sun and dust, not to mention the bazillion mosquitoes. That was just the beginning, once the bales were made and stooked it was then time to haul them home for the winter feeding. Above shows the hard work involved day after day, Manfred and Julius Schroeder in 1968 in the picture, the old truck was a school bus they converted into a grain truck. First throwing those 50 lb. bales up onto the truck, note how high the load is. Then unloading them, and of course the more you hauled the higher the stack got. When spring finally came and all those bales had been fed to the cows we handled them at least 5 times and maybe more in some cases, then it was time to haul them back out to the field in a completely different form. No need to be going to the gym back then.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Esther Garage has been photographed by many, including my good friend Dale Stewert. We met for coffee and have traveled the province together taking photos because he had taken a photo of this old building, it was built in the early 40’s by Clayton Ball and Harry Hunter to store their truck in. Since that time it has had several owners. The office part of the garage was even used as a school for a couple years. Some of the owners were Sam McKnight, Henry Kroeger ( Massey Harris and Dodge cars). Henry's grandson is Chad Kroeger, Nickleback. Ed Schroeder used it as a welding and repair shop, Bruce, Jim and Roy Pratt ran it as an automotive repair and sold gas, I remember the old gravity feed gas pump and a huge machinist press inside, which is still there. The garage is still standing and is used for storage and is owned by Bill Dalton.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Traveling around Alberta and Saskatchewan we often find stately old Hotels that were built in the early years and portions of them are still in use, one of them being the Hotel in Sibbald, Alberta. In the early 20's Henry Muhlbach came to the Sibbald area and being a Stonemason he constructed the Sibbald Hotel. The building is still standing and the lower portion is still being used as a bar. His son later moved to the Esther area onto a homestead and during the mid 30's the crops were so bad and business was terrible because of the Great Depression the farm and the hotel were sold and the family moved further north to the Botha area. The Hotel has seen many owners since then but is still standing proud as the day it was built. I have just received information from a local resident, the hotel or bar are no longer open. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

The curling rink in Esther was a pretty busy place during the winter. All four of us in the above picture learned to curl in the "Old Esther Curling Rink." As the years went by, a new Central  Curling Club with artificial ice was built in New Brigden and we all curled there too. Early in the winter of 1974, we heard about a playoff for the Local FUA to represent the Oyen area and curl in the provincial bonspiel in Edmonton. Well the four of us in our mismatched sweaters decided to practice and enter the spiel. Long story short we won the local playoff and earned a berth in the Provincials in Edmonton and ended up winning second in the B division. Not bad for a bunch of farm boys, we did end up getting matching sweaters when we got to Edmonton. We ended up curling together for many years after that.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Moving in the early years was an adventure, Tom Short arrived in Saskatoon, Sk. from Ontario in 1912, where he met and married his bride. They loaded all of their earthly belongings onto the train and traveled west to Kindersley which was the end of the rail at that time. Tom bought a wagon and a pair of oxen and with the help of a friend they proceeded to the homestead on the NW 1/4 of 14-31-2W4. At that time Esther had not been developed as a town and Loverna was the closest town. The Shorts dammed up a spring which eventually became a swimming hole and water for the cattle. That swimming hole was developed into a larger dam after my Dad (Don Parks) purchased the Short farm and for many years it was known as Parks Dam, it was on the Fish and Wildlife map for many years as it had been stocked with rainbow trout. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Over the years there have been several private pilots in the Esther community. Ron Barnett and his Piper Cub, carried a little freight and sprayed a few crops for himself and the neighbors. Bob Bamber and his Citabria could be seen buzzing around the countryside in the evenings. Roy and Roxie Pratt and their Cessna 182 traveling about the province on business and pleasure. Rick Strankman and his commercial spray plane spending countless hours spraying crops and grasshoppers when they were hungry. Steve Kuzmiski could be seen out enjoying his 172 and Doug and Joyce Westerlund also both had their licenses. Just a hop and a skip to the east were Buck Foss in Loverna and Barry and Delphine Slater south of Loverna with their crop spray planes. All in all, we had a pretty talented group of pilots in our midst. Fly in breakfasts were a common site as well, sometimes at Roy and Roxie's and sometimes at Coates Lake.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Three of the Pioneers in the Esther and New Brigden communities, Len Westerlund and Jim Pratt hauled the first two loads of grain to the Esther Alberta Wheat Pool elevator in 1926. Len also hauled the last load of grain to the Esther Elevator before it closed. Charlie Wilson was one of the first School Trustees when the Acadia School division was first created. These three gentlemen have all passed on but will always be fondly remembered by their families and the community for their unique sense of humor and willingness to help anyone in their respective communities. I am proud to have known all three of them, Jim Pratt was our closest neighbor at the farm and I had the honor to sit in the Masonic Lodge with both Len and Charlie.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

 By 1912 most of the area between Loverna, Sk. and the sounding Creek had been settled after a devastating prairie fire destroyed everything in its wake in 1910. The Olsens and several other families arrived and settled along the creek. At that time the mail came as far as (Bideford) which is now Altario, Ab. In 1913 the Railroad came to Loverna, the following year Yens Olsen, top photo, started a Post Office in his house, a half mile north of the Town of Esther, which was named for his daughter Esther, he would haul the mail from Loverna to Esther twice a week. In 1925 the Railroad came into Esther and further on west. In 1926 a General Store was built in Esther by Harry Ball and the Post Office was then moved into the store. When Mr. Olsen passed on in 1929, Fred Foot, bottom photo, took over the duties as Post Master until 1958. His son Bill and Ellen Foot then took over the duties assisted by several folks in the community. The Store and Post office was eventually sold to Madge and Bill Dalton and Madge was the Postmaster until the Post Office closed and mailboxes were put in just outside the store where they still are today.

Monday, 6 February 2017

I have travelled around Alberta taking photos of people and places for several years, I have slowly accumulated some very good camera equipment. When I look through all of the Community History Books that I inherited from my mother, Olive Parks, I see some incredible photos taken in the early 1900's and I am amazed by the quality. My Grandparents, Edith and Tom Hewines were married in Candiac, Saskatchewan in 1922 and the photo is so impressive. We need to have a great appreciation for the photographers of the past when we see a great photo like this knowing that the equipment used was very simple in comparison to the standard of cameras we use today and the software that is used to edit the photos. I am personally humbled by these photographers from the past. 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Every day we all say, "oh I need to run and get the mail." When I think back to when I was very young and my parents would either ride a saddle horse, drive or take my Dad's old snowplane 5 miles to Esther to get the mail, once a week.
Steve Sankey delivered mail from Hemaruka, Ab. to Loverna Sk. and all of the post offices in between, from January 1, 1946, until December 31, 1949. In those years he delivered mail with various modes of transportation, one of the most unique was his Massey Harris 102 tractor fitted with ski's on the front and a mailbox on the back. He would often use horses and have places along the way to change horses and stay overnight. I remember my Dad talking about Steve staying at the farm and using one of Dad's teams to go onto Loverna, they remained great friends for many years after that. When he came back he would change out the team and carry on to Esther, New Brigden, Sedalia and back home to Hemaruka. When we look back at these times, it gives us a sense of how difficult it was to do something we take for granted today.

Friday, 3 February 2017

In December of 1967, I went to work for a seismic company called Velocity Survey’s, I started out on a crew in Hanna with Ron Barnett. For the next three winters, I worked all over northern Alberta and the NWT.
In April of 1970, I was asked to go to Prince Patrick Island to a camp at Satellite Bay on the very north tip of the island. I spent the next three months there surveying seismic lines for British Petroleum. There were days when I asked myself what on earth have I done, with winds blowing 30 to 50 mph and temps of 60 below F, it was a tad cold.
At the end of the program, comprised two refraction profiles between Prince Patrick Island and Melville Island, and one refraction profile extending 192 km onto the ocean northwest of Brock Island.
I will never forget the day we left the island, it was June 29, 1970, and it was 25 below F and windy. We arrived at the airport downtown Edmonton at 7:00 in the evening and it was 93 F above, we all had on long underwear and hair down to our shoulders and we had a bit of a camp smell to us, people in the airport gave us a wide berth. It was an amazing experience and I met some lifelong friends.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Growing up in a small community, there was always music in the air. In the family and house I grew up in, my Dad played several musical instruments and we all participated in band and or music lessons. I recall going to Esther, Loverna and New Brigden to dances with my parents and there were always local bands playing. The above photo is a group of gentlemen from the Sibbald area in the early 1900's who entertained the folks in the community whenever they got a chance to. I believe Marguerite Wilson's Grandpa is one of the members of this band.

Another Esther Pioneer. Ed Affleck was one of the early pioneers in the Esther Community, he came to the area in 1913 and set up his ...